Las Vegas Born and Raised
Why I am Running
Born and raised means something to those in Las Vegas who have grown up here and worked to build a community. I have been proud to call Las Vegas my home from Elementary School at R. Guild Gray to the Boyd School of Law, and now after nearly 14 years as a trial attorney,
I want to serve my community and the citizens of Las Vegas as a
District Court Judge.
Growing up in a single-parent household, my mother did everything she could to help provide for me and I understand the unique stresses that come with trying to provide for children, while also trying to have time to teach them as they get older. I remember my “room” consisting of sleeping on the couch with my mother in my grandmother’s apartment, and how proud she was when her job at the Paddle Wheel eventually allowed her to get her first apartment.
These experiences gave me respect for the struggle people have day-to-day to provide for their families. The legal system should work equally for everyone; where you come from or how much money you have should not be a factor for receiving justice under the law.
My father was a craps dealer for the Stardust for over 25-years until he retired. I lived with him across the street from the Gold Coast when I attended Cashman Middle School and my first few years at Clark High School. As with many teenagers, there was a time where I thought I knew it all and after obtaining my first job at Terrible Herbst Car Wash, I dropped out of high school in the 11th Grade. I would later transfer to Cimarron-Memorial High School, taking eight classes in my senior year to graduate on time and be part of the first graduating class in 1998.
From working at the car wash, I went to McDonald’s, and then to Pizza Hut. I moved into my first apartment while working at Pizza Hut when I was 17. It is at that point, I give great thanks to my Uncle Michael Verrilli, a retired Fire Captain in Clark County, who treated me like a son. He gave me invaluable guidance on pursuing my education. . In college, I would meet back up with an elementary school friend, Eric Woodson, and we became roommates. When my car finally gave out and I could not deliver pizzas anymore, I worked at Ruth’s Chris Steak House as a busboy and went on to graduate from UNLV with Honors with a degree in Economics in 2003.
At Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, I worked as a busboy, food runner, and bar back. I worked with many great people: chefs, managers, and co-workers. During the summers I would work at the hotels as a lifeguard and met people from all around the world.
After graduating from UNLV, I attended the Boyd School of Law. Interestingly, prior Governor Brian Sandoval was kind enough to write an entry letter to Boyd on my behalf after I waited on his table at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. My co-workers and managers helped me make the introduction and told him about my plans to go to Law School.
After graduating from law school, I practiced civil litigation with Karsaz and Associates before going over to the Clark County District Attorney’s office during the Great Financial Crises of 2007. I worked in the appellate division for a few years, before going to work with Osvaldo “Ozzie” Fumo. Later we would join firms with Thomas Pitaro and Michael Miceli to form the Law Offices of Pitaro and Fumo, Chtd. Interestingly, I went to college and law school with Michael and we had been roommates before becoming partners in our Law Firm.
For the last 12 years, I have worked with Ozzie, Tom, and Mike as a trial attorney in State and Federal Court. I have conducted hundreds of trials, including many jury trials. In addition to my private practice, I have provided indigent defense under the Criminal Justice Act for those charged with Federal crimes and have likewise acted as conflict counsel in State Court for indigent clients. I have argued in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and am licensed to practice in all State and Federal Courts in Nevada.
It has now become my turn to raise a family in Las Vegas and we currently have two children and are expecting a third during this election cycle.
Born and raised is not just a slogan or catchy phrase; it means something to everyone who has called Las Vegas home. It representsthe opportunities this city has offered us all. To me, it signifies born into humble beginnings and raised up by our wonderful community to become something greater than I may have ever thought possible. I have always been proud to call Las Vegas my home and now want to give back by serving this community as District Court Judge.
How Life Experiences Influence Judicial Philosophies
I have prided myself on treating every client, police officer, prosecutor, court staff, and judge with respect. The American justice system is described as an adversarial system and this has led people to believe that this means the litigants must be adversarial to each other. However, this is not the case. Reasonable minds may differ as to the interpretation of a law or the guilt or innocence of a person and it is important to provide a fair and just system that allows both sides to present their case and be heard. Both the State and Defense, the Plaintiff and Defendant, can disagree and still be expected to treat each other and the judicial process with the respect it deserves.
I am at heart a trial attorney and highly value the role of the trial courts and the Constitutional guarantee of a trial by your peers in the community. Contrary to the perception, a defense attorney’s job is not to “get the guy off,”but to ensure a fair proceeding so that the jury gets every relevant piece of information to make a fully informed and fair decision as to the facts and circumstances of a case. I believe it is very important for Judges to not ensure outcomes, but to ensure fundamental fairness so both the citizens and litigants can feel comfortable in the impartiality and fairness of the proceedings, even if they may disagree with the outcome. Judges cannot, and should not, decide any outcome or legislate from the bench, but instead must provide a fair and just forum for the citizens of Nevada to be heard and to seek justice.
My early life poor decisions and subsequent turn around taught me the value of virtuous and vicious cycles and how they can drastically affect a person’s life. Each poor decision I made compounded and limited the next decision I could make in a vicious downward spiral. It is very easy to feel helpless and to continue making poor decision after poor decision because each bad decision is a product of limitations caused by the prior bad decision. I found that although a person’s environment can present enormous challenges and lead to the start of a vicious circle, it is ultimately each individual’s responsibility to change his or her environment to create the opportunity for positive outcomes.
One positive action leads to another and another, and so on like dominos. Eventually, the positive steps resulted in making the next step that much easier and in time, a virtuous cycle emerged in my life. My getting into Law School came, in part, from a letter of recommendation I got while working at a job I got from a roommate I met by pursuing my college degree. Each positive action led to another opportunity for further positive development.
As a judge, it is important to enforce and impose the law both as a deterrent and to protect the community, but as a person and member of the community, it is equally important to strive to never give up on trying to kick start a virtuous cycle that helps both the individual and the community.
Each case and person that comes before a Court is unique and deserves attention and respect. I believe the role of a judge is not to legislate from the bench or apply any particular ideology but simply to interpret and apply the law with fairness and impartiality, keeping in mind that each person who is in Court is a real person experiencing the same shared human condition, is seeking to be heard, and deserves the justice we will crave. As a District Court Judge in Department 2, I will strive to provide this to my community.
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